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Politics

Florida Conservatives Push Congress for Immigration Reform

May 14, 2014 - 6:00pm

Conservatives from the Sunshine State called on Congress Thursday to pass immigration reform before the end of the year. Immigration reform legislation backed by the Gang of Eight, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., passed through the Democratic-controlled Senate but it has stalled in the GOP-led U.S. House.

The Partnership for the New American Economy hosted a conference call for the media on Thursday featuring American Conservative Union (ACU) Chairman Al Cardenas, Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) Senior VP Brewster Bevis, Ed Moore from the Florida Center-Right Coalition and attorney and new media figure Justin Sayfie who handled communications for former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla. All four Floridians made the case that conservatives -- including the Republican majority representing the Sunshine State in Congress -- need to make immigration reform.

Calling Florida representative of the nation as a whole, Cardenas insisted there has been unity and bipartisan support of most aspects of immigration reform, including securing the border. The challenge has been the undocumented, Cardenas said, adding whatever final bill emerges from the House may not include a path to citizenship.

Cardenas pointed to Tallahassee as a model Washington could emulate, noting a bill that allows undocumented aliens who graduate from Florida high schools in-state tuition at state colleges and universities, and one giving an undocumented alien who passed the bar exam the right to practice law in Florida. Both bills passed in the recently closed legislative session. The former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) insisted this was a message to Washington.

In a conservative Legislature like the state of Floridas, theres bipartisan support for this, Cardenas said.

Citing the number of Baby Boomers retiring and the low birthrate, Bevis said immigration reform was needed to ensure a workforce here in the state of Florida.

Bevis said the business community and AIF were more concerned with ensuring undocumented aliens had legal work status here than creating a path to citizenship.

Noting that no major immigration reform had been adopted at the federal level since 1986, Bevis said the time had come for Congress to act.

There needs to be federal action, Bevis said. Weve seen an increased number of undocumented workers in the United States.

Moore also pointed to demographics to make the case for immigration reform, noting that the average couple was now having 1.7 children.

We dont have enough workers now in the United States and Florida, Moore said. Its going to get worse.

Drawing on his higher education background, which includes leading the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF), Moore noted many students, especially from Asia, come to the United States for graduate studies but federal policy ensures they go to other nations to work instead of staying in America.

Sayfie stressed real conservatives should back immigration reform and called former President Ronald Reagan a role model for backing the 1986 immigration changes.

We need to get control of our border, Sayfie said. We need economic growth.

Sunshine State News asked if they expected Republicans in the delegation, including those from conservative North Florida who are facing primary challengers, would be on board with immigration reform.

Cardenas insisted the 2014 election cycle was shaping up very differently than recent years for immigration reform in the GOP primaries. It has not been a significant component in the primaries, Cardenas answered. The needle has moved in the right direction.

Traditional allies of the GOP have been pushing for immigration reform this week, including Tom Donohue from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce insisting Republicans would face dire political consequences in the 2016 presidential contest if they do not pass it this year. Sal Russo, the co-founder of the Tea Party Express, announced on Wednesday that he was supporting immigration reform efforts.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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